A hospital marketing executive has learned a key lesson: you can't out-exercise a bad diet.
EXECUTIVE: Maryemma Bachelder, director of marketing at Lake Wales Medical Center. Bachelder, 48, is the face of the 160-bed community hospital and helps guide community relations, events and hospital programs. The hospital is one of the largest employers in Lake Wales.
DIVERSION: Working out. Bachelder has lost 72 pounds since getting serious about lifting weights, running and eating healthy. She's run at least six half marathons and six triathlons, and is a certified-personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has also begun working on a degree in sports management.
HOMETOWN: After working jobs in other Polk County cities, Bachelder was thrilled to be back in her native Lake Wales. “Having grown up in Lake Wales, I've seen the hospital go through phases,” she says. “It got a bad rap in the past, but things are so much better. Marketing it is easy. I believe in it, and I believe in taking care of our community.” Her new healthy lifestyle marries well with her hospital job.
AH-HA MOMENT: It was July 2011 when Bachelder was first shocked at her appearance. “I was sworn in as Rotary president and I looked at pictures,” she says. “I thought 'Dear Lord, who is that woman with that many chins?'” She's almost 6 feet tall and weighed in at 214 pounds. Bachelder was close to being obese on the BMI chart. “Enough was enough.”
BABY STEPS: She started with the treadmill, ate healthier and lost 35 pounds. “I changed my diet and decided each meal should be at least half veggies, and I had to eat them first,” she says. “I thought 'OK. I'm fine now.' I was pretty happy.” But she realized it wasn't enough. She took another step and began working out at a local gym, taking her fitness to a new level.
FAVORITE MOMENT: Running her first 5K was a turning point for her. “I felt like I just finished the New York City Marathon,” she says. “Six months before that I couldn't do it. It felt so good.”
Bachelder says it's really 80% mental. “If you lose that mental battle, you are checked out.” The third week of a fitness challenge at the gym had her in tears, but she never gave up.
“It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I pushed through and got over the hurdle.” She was now down to a size 8. The last time she was that small was in high school.
KICK THE CRAVINGS: Working in the health care industry has shown Bachelder the negative things that can result from a lifetime of not caring for yourself. She was on high blood pressure medication until 2015, and she knows it's because of her lifestyle change.
“When you eat the standard American diet, it's hard to kick the sugar and fat,” she says. “Give it two to three weeks and your cravings will change. You have to be OK with being a freak.”
Bachelder signed up for another fitness challenge, was off the blood pressure medicine and never looked back.
MORE FUEL: Bachelder, who now weighs in at 142 pounds, likes how her body feels. “Your body is a machine, and you have to put quality fuel in it if you want it to function properly,” she says. “It's not about what I don't eat; it's about what I do eat.” Bachelder is now on a plant-based diet, eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. “The single most important thing I've learned on this journey is that you can't out-exercise bad eating habits.”
ME TIME: Jetting out the door at 4:30 a.m. for a run is just a way of life for Bachelder. Teaching a spinning class at the YMCA, taking a 6 a.m. kickboxing class and working with a personal trainer is just a normal part of her day - and that's along with her job at the hospital. “It has to be a balance,” she says, adding that her schedule has freed up now that her son is in college. “My diet and my lifestyle aren't chores or drudgery. They're my way of life.”
GIVING BACK: Bachelder is pumped about being involved in her local community. She helps the local Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce and even dabbles in acting at the Lake Wales Little Theatre. But now she can be involved in a different way by helping people make a positive life change.
“People come to me for advice, and I like to help somebody who is ready to make a change and guide them through that journey,” she says. “I'm not there to turn them into a mini-me. My job is to help them meet their goals.”